Bob Brown, a retired Senator and the former leader of the Australian Greens party, has spoken out against a $40 million tax bill slapped on Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) founder David Walsh by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) which threatens to hamper future museum activities and cramp the style of the celebrated Australian institution.
Walsh, a professional gambler who has made millions in conjunction with the other members of his gambling syndicate, has not paid any taxes on his earnings thus far, but is now being chased for unpaid taxes that the ATO claims is owed to them.
According to Bob Brown, “for years the ATO told Mr Walsh gambling was not a business and so was not taxable. When they changed their mind, instead of saying that his future activities would be taxable they waited some years and ambushed him with a retrospective tax bill.”
Described by Brown as “unfair behaviour by the ATO”, Brown does not believe that retrospective payments should be made by Walsh and that if the tax office was going require that tax be paid by the gambling enterprise, it should have said so from the beginning.
Walsh, who has invested considerable amounts of his own money in the development of MONA, has contributed significantly to Tasmania through the development of the museum which is an important employer and has proved a fantastic stimulant for the island state.
In a press release, Brown states that: “I have no brief for gambling or for David Walsh. But I think MONA is a magnificent asset for Tasmania and many people are grateful for Walsh’s extraordinary innovation. This tax attack came after Walsh decided to invest his winnings in MONA. The question I have for the ATO is: was it the worldwide publicity over Walsh’s revelation of MONA that caused the tax office to reassess its century old policy that gambling is not taxable?”
It is understood that Walsh is willing to pay tax on future earnings.